American Horror Story has featured characters that are (quite reasonably) afraid of pig-headed men, vampires, men in rubber suits, murder clowns, and almost every other scary thing under the sun. One of the main characters of Season 7, however, has a very specific fear unlike anything else in AHS history. Sarah Paulson's Ally is afraid of objects with holes on AHS: Cult. A piece of coral in her therapist's office sends her into near hysterics. This phobia may seem invented, but having a fear of holes is real, and you may not even realize you have it.
A physical hole doesn't sound that scary. (Unless you fall into it, that is.) One hole in the ground is no big deal, right? What about ten holes in the ground? What about a hundred? What about a thousand tiny holes on the walls around you? These are the kinds of thing that keep Ally of AHS: Cult up at night. (Along with clowns.)
Ally's life takes a turn for the worst in the first episode of AHS: Cult. First, she's shattered to learn that Donald Trump won the election. And then, a mysterious clown cult begins preying on her fears to turn her life into a living nightmare. While Ally's fear of clowns seems easier to prey on than her very specific fear of objects holes, the ways in which Ally's fear can get triggered are surprisingly common. Ally's trypophobia — the popular term for the fear — is already a huge part of the imagery of AHS: Cult.
AHS: Cult is combining many things that scare some people, including clowns, bees, and the politics of Donald Trump. What's interesting about trypophobia is that it's a fear of something that can be inanimate. A fear of holes is much different than fear of a person or an animal. However, living next to a beekeeper signifies bad news for Ally. Where do bees live? In a honeycomb. What is a honeycomb? A seemingly infinite amount of tiny holes that scary insects come out of.
Popular Science writer Jennifer Abbasi noted in her piece about trypophobia that it's not an officially recognized phobia, though it does seem to be more common than you might expect. But that may be due to all the conversation happening around it, on social media, in AHS, and elsewhere. "It's not unusual to laugh harder at a funny movie if others around you are laughing," psychologist Martin Antony told Popular Science. "In the same way, we may be more likely to experience fear in a particular moment if others around us are fearful."
But Ally's fear of these kinds of objects may also play into her feelings towards the world. The first scene of AHS: Cult shows Ally having her world torn apart by the results of the 2016 election. Many voters who opposed Trump felt their world become a lot more empty in that moment, void of the hope and promise they once felt. Cult is the most politically-charged season of AHS yet, and Ally's trypophobia could serve as a metaphor for how she feels about life after the 2016 election — that it is scary and unknown.
Showrunner Ryan Murphy clearly has a reason for including trypophobia in American Horror Story: Cult, even if the reason is just because a lot of tiny holes close together looks super creepy to a lot of people, apparently. The focus on this phobia may mean that some viewers who feel like Ally could be triggered; then again, horror is literally American Horror Story's middle name.